Chelsea are hoping to build on their huge win over Manchester City when they head to St Mary’s on Saturday. Having secured progress in the FA Cup and having survived the first leg of their Champions League tie with their chances of progression in tact, they will now be hoping to improve their league fortunes. Can Guus Hiddink lead his men to another win, or will they be the latest side to fall against Southampton?
This is one of the most difficult fixtures the Blues could have been handed this week, as Southampton come into this one in fantastic form. They’re unbeaten in their last six, and they’ve won four on the spin at home. Fraser Forster has yet to concede a goal since returning from injury. In fact, the England international hasn’t conceded a goal since Diego Costa scored against him in March of last year.
That form has seen the Saints move into the top six in the league, and they’re just a point off Manchester United. They had a free weekend after going out of the cup in the third round, so they’ll be well rested ahead of this one. That should give them an edge over a Chelsea side who have been in league, European and cup action since the Saints’ last game.
That all builds up to a pretty tall task, even discounting the fact that this Southampton team were 3-1 winners at the Bridge back in October. They might have faced a much worse off Blues side back then, but Ronald Koeman’s men are more than capable of completing the league double over the champions on Saturday. They know that a draw or better will move them into the top five here, with Manchester United playing title favourites Arsenal on Sunday.
The Blues will be hoping to record back to back league wins for the first time this term, following their 5-1 victory over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge two weeks prior. With this game quickly followed by a trip to Carrow Road to face Norwich, there’s a chance for the Blues to build up some momentum and move further up the league table.
Hiddink will be hoping that John Terry will be back for this clash, although he’ll be tempted to keep Branislav Ivanovic at centre-half. Their current defensive line up sees the Serbian and Cesar Azpilcueta in their natural positions, which seems like a better fit. Even Abdul Baba Rahman seems to be doing well at left back. There are few other options to come in right now, but this back four probably needs a settled spell going forwards.
Expect few other changes up top, as it’s hard to fault anyone from the game on Sunday. Eden Hazard produced a sublime display in that win, and it would be incredibly harsh to drop him here. Barring a possible return for Terry, the team shouldn’t change much here.
LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw